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January 5, 2008

Raw outline of "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century"

Below are the "raw" notes I took in the AALS Friday afternoon plenary session, "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century" featuring Edward L. Rubin (Vanderbilt University Law School), Vicki C. Jackson (Georgetown University Law Center), Robert Mac Crate, Esq. (Senior Counsel, Sullivan and Cromwell), Martha L. Minow (Harvard Law School), Suellyn Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law), William M. Sullivan (Senior Scholar The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), Judith W. Wegner (University of North Carolina School of Law).

Update: MP3 recording of this session now available.

[The panel began with Bill Sullivan outlining the Carnegie Foundation's Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law.]

Bill Sullivan (Carnegie Foundation)

Prof ed's common goal as it moved into university: a threefold apprenticeship:

  • knowledge
  • competence for practice
  • Identity + prof. purpose

Experiential learning

  • Mastery
  • Judgment

AALS will be collecting best practices at


Ed Rubin (Vanderbilt)

Law schools teach all three years at same level of sophistication. Vanderbilt now offers areas concentration, incrementing analytical sophistication, guided by faculty

Vicki Jackson (Georgetown)

  1. Globalization - an opportunity to rethink our fields

  2. Expanding learning experiences.How we teach is what we teach -- Problem-solving, reflective

    • Social science about learning
    • Critiques about legal education
    • [Illegible -- help?]
  3. Law + Legal systems to Justice / Fairness. "Week 1" (of 2nd semester)

    • Intro to realistic, complex multiunit problem
    • Problem-based experiential setting
      • Assigned + act out roles
      • Collaboratively w/ role group
    • Builds on 1st-year content


ABA 25 years ago urged reassessment together

Martha Minow (Harvard)

theme: "choice"

Once it became clear that we were serious, there was little disagreement (but enormous resistance). There were two contradictory objections to each idea:

  • "We've tried that before."
  • "We've never tried that before."

Autonomy of prof. in the classroom leads to need to learn to play well together

  1. "What do students need now?" not "How did I learn law.” Student as a person on a map
  2. Some of mastery, not labeled w/ doctrine. Rather, problem-solving, strategy
  3. Ethics + Role: taking agency
  4. Institutional design change: choice

How change happened at Harvard:

  • Leadership: Dean on committee, attend every one
  • Process, not report
  • Ambition: pursue something faculty is afraid of: results not guaranteed

Exceed existing constraints

  • Look outside: medical, business, policy
  • More process: agreement before the vote
  • It's not over: ongoing, not episodic

Suellen Scarnecchia (University of New Mexico School of Law)

Clinical faculty at NM are tenured [applause]

Do we have the right faculty? Yes: we can integrate the 3 apprenticeships with current personnel. But what stops us?

  • History: clinical and legal writing faculty fought to get in
  • Bias about each other (mutual between faculty and clinical)

We need

  • respect
  • collaboration


  1. A reason to change (Purpose)

    • We're smart
    • Self actualization (letting the energy out)
    • Conscience + stewardship: build a better society
  2. Multiple dimensions of teaching

    • Beyond intellectual knowledge: new epistemology. We construct knowledge in context.
    • Beyond content
  3. It's About learning

    • Students learn better that way
      • - Values / motivation
      • - Experiential:learn by doing
    • Progression
    • Advising: career choices, values, courses
  4. It's About Learning

    • Take assessment seriously
    • Bifurcate bar exam: 1st year analytics


What are the challenges in next 20-30 years

Talk about Social Justice + Ethics in the curriculum

Students as subjects/ agents

Casebooks as a barrier to innovation: publishers not moving quickly enough?

January 5, 2008 in Conferences, Deans and innovations, Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 4, 2008

AALS Innovations: Open forum

What are the top innovations we've encountered at the American Association of Law Schools annual meeting this year in New York City? I've been here in the Exhibition Hall the whole time, but rumor has it that the 2:15 Friday session, "Rethinking Legal Education For The 21st Century", has over 1,000 registrants. Anything that asks us to "rethink" points to innovation, right?

Looking forward to everyone's "top 10" list of innovations you've encountered here.


January 4, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 31, 2007

Another test of teaching with a blog

Last spring, when I was teaching an upper-level specialty course on the death penalty, I experimented with using a blog to support the course.  This blog, on which students had to post some materials, served my purposes and goals very well.  But that course lacked a traditional text and the topic lent itself to bloggy innovation.

This spring, I am teaching the first-year Legislation course.  Though the course is a relatively innovative part of the Ohio State curriculum, it is a classic large 1L lecture course.  I am much less confident that this course blog (rather than a propriety law-school-support technology like TWEN) will be an ideal tool for me and the students.  But I'll never know the blog potential (and drawbacks) for traditional courses unless I try this out. 

So that's what this new blog is about, and comments from any and everyone about this enterprise are welcome.

Posted by DAB

December 31, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2007

Another Perspective on the Kindle

After playing with my Kindle for slightly over a week, I have to disagree with some of my colleagues on this blog. (see here and here).  I do think that the Kindle has a strong future with the next generation of law books - at least with one segment of the law school population. 

I agree that this first generation Kindle has some deficiencies that warrant change prior to be adapted for law school casebooks.  Most noticeably I would appreciate the highlight function being colored yellow as opposed to just blocking the text. And although I really really (did I say really strong enough)appreciate the 10.3 ounces, I wouldn't mind a few more ounces to increase its size to the page of the average law school casebook. I also would like a built in back-light function and smaller tabs for the page forward and page back buttons, as I keep hitting them unintentionally.

But these deficiencies are minor, are likely to be corrected in the next generation Kindle, and the convenience it offers is incredible.  Having gone to law school in the pre-rolling bag days, I all too well remember carrying heavy law books to and from school.  And perhaps my gender is telling here, as I see the rolling bags being used by more women than men in the law school hallways - and rolling bags don't work well on stairs.  Is your law school more than one level, and who takes the stairs and who takes the elevators?

I am not sure that the Kindle will replace the law books, but I could easily see them as the holder of the casebook that is brought to class - perhaps along with the live code books used in some courses.  I guess I see the Kindle having a bright future with some law students, and I am hopeful that Amazon and law book publishers will build the alliance for those who are looking to replace heavy texts with a 10.3 ounce or slightly heavier device.

- ellen s. podgor

December 30, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack